Into The Light: Jonn Lilyea

There are times one knows one must write something, but you hope that such need not be done for years.  You know the day is coming, but hope against hope it need not be today.  However…

What can one say about a man who was, as Hondo notes, a man of honor and courage?  Who faced challenges from the battlefield to the health problems that came from his service with both fortitude and humor?  Who, at considerable personal expense, supported his fellow troops of all services and veterans?  TSO has done an amazing job of it, yet, there is so much more that can be said.

Given the antics of his own cats, I suspect that Jonn would get a chuckle out of the fact that my landlord’s cat is grabbing my arm as I write this, demanding love.  A chuckle that might turn into a smile as the cat runs away when I try to give her a skritch for him.

I honestly can’t remember when I first met Jonn, but I remember well the first night I had the honor of sitting in his home smoking cigars, enjoying fine aged Panamanian rum, and solving the problems of the world.  That rum was a favorite of his, and is now a favorite of mine.  It was a night of bonding, and discovering a friend who was one of those rare types that you feel you’ve been friends forever.

Over the years, I was one of many who benefited from his sage, sometimes gruff, advice.  And, the occasional swift kick in the ass given as only a first sergeant can give.  He was always there, not just for me, but for many.  If you served, or were serving, he had your back.  I suspect strongly that in the final tally he literally helped thousands indirectly through his writing and works, and more than can be counted directly.

He loathed poseurs, and spent time and money exposing them.  It is worth noting that some he did not go after in public, dealing with them in private.  It is also worth noting that if they came clean, he offered advice and encouragement to them.  Those that didn’t, well…  When I joined the Indiana Guard Reserve (state guard, not national) one of the first things I did was to tell him, both to share the news and to let him know that if he saw a photo of me in uniform that I had not gone off the reservation.  He gave me some much needed advice (‘he’s an asshole here’s what you do’) more than once.

Jonn was gruff, crusty, and had a soft center that could even be gooey.  He didn’t like to talk about his own problems, but was always there for so many to hear of life’s challenges and triumphs.  His loss is a loss for the Republic and especially for his family and friends.  Like TSO, I ask that if you are religious, please say a prayer for his family and friends.  If you serve, or have honorably served, raise a toast to him.

I toasted him last night, and this morning raise my coffee mug to him remembering the last time I saw him.  I had gone by his place for a visit, and Jonn insisted — as only he could — that I spend the night instead of pressing on with my journey.  He equally insisted that I stay for breakfast, though the morning was too cold for us to smoke a cigar on the porch as planned.  His loss has brought tears to my eyes, and smiles and laughter at some of the memories — he would approve of the latter.

He was a man of battlesteel-clad honor and integrity, and we are the richer for him and having known him.  For all that his death leaves a void in many lives, I give thanks that I knew him and echo Patton in saying “Thank God that such a man lived.”

Godspeed Jonn.

Into The Light: Hugh Hefner

Hugh Hefner has passed. I never had the chance to meet him, though I’m told both he and his daughter Christie both checked me out when I did my photographic internship at Playboy.
 
While there were — of course — tales of parties and such, most of the tales I heard about him concerned photography and his passion for it. Not just passion, but considerable knowledge and appreciation.
 
One tale I was told concerned his directives on what format was used to shoot various sized shots in the magazine. The larger the picture in the magazine, the larger the format with the centerfolds being shot on an 8×10 camera. One of the long-time photographers told me of a time they tested Hugh, as they didn’t think he could tell the difference. Seems he caught on to the test, correctly identified which photo had been shot on what format, and sent back a message basically saying ‘good try, don’t ever do that again or you are fired.’
 
When I was there was a time of transition for the empire. Christie had just taken over, and Hugh had left Chicago for good. The photography was changing, but there was still quite a bit of the “it’s not what you show, but how you don’t show it” philosophy at work. The idea was to be fresh, but elegant, and not to sink to the levels of some other publications. That philosophy still shapes a lot of what I do.
 
And, yes, Hugh not only selected the playmates, at the time I was there he still personally approved every photo that went into magazine. He was also quite serious about the “girl next door” part of things, and anyone moving towards being a playmate was vetted to be sure they met his standards on that.
 
So, to Hugh: Thank You. Your magazine influenced my youth in photo and in word (yes, I did read the articles, sometimes before looking at the photos). Interning at your magazine is still influencing my photography to this day. The chance to meet Pompeo and other photographers, and more importantly to work extensively with David Mecey, David Chan, and Randy Goss (the studio manager) did wonders to improve my talent. Indirectly, you introduced me to some wonderful things and a number of good people. Godspeed.

Into The Light: Jerry Pournelle

NOTE:  I started writing this the day the news broke; but, life has been hectic and frankly this one has been hard to write.  So, trying to finish it now and get it out. 

Since hearing the news of his death, I’ve been thinking about the Jerry Pournelle I knew. That phrasing is very deliberate, because science fiction fandom has long been into drama, and the tall tales of Jerry and others were legend continuously being embellished and embossed. Many in the field have written about him, and he was a giant in the field. Yet, far fewer realize the impact he had on many areas outside the field.

I first met him at a worldcon (LA I think) and while he was harried and hurried, he was gracious. I think I met him again at another con, but it was when we met at a science conference that he took a look at me, and some amazing things (from my perspective) happened.

I suddenly found myself under his wing, loudly threatened with a messy departure from this life (his booming pronouncement of same echoing through the atrium literally caused the lobby and other parts of the Hyatt in Chicago to fall silent), and being introduced to a wide range of figures in science, science fiction, and other fields. In fact, at that science conference, I found myself going to a dinner I could only dream of on government per diem with Jerry, his lovely and gracious wife Roberta, Fred Pohl, and a number of other luminaries.

What struck me at the time was that he and the others treated me and my opinions as worthy of hearing and discussion — and drew me out on them. While I had been doing science reporting and writing for several years at that point, I was still early in my career and was definitely the junior party present. In fact, I rather felt like an E-1 suddenly finding himself at dinner with the Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs and other senior leaders. Yet, Jerry set the tone and I was encouraged by all to join in on the discussions.

It was the first of several such dinners over the years, and I’m glad I finally got the chance to reciprocate many years later. It was more than dinners. I found myself included in a number of discussions, informal meetings, and more. We discussed ways to get humanity into space, deal with a variety of threats here at home, and shoot the bull. Jerry, and Roberta, helped take some rough edges off of me, and provided some life lessons well beyond writing.

Yet, for all that he was a giant in the science fiction field, few realize the crucial role he played in winning the Cold War; in the aerospace industry; in setting the stage for the current commercial space industry; in advancing computing and personal computing; and, with Roberta, in education. Few realize he was a polymath, with degrees covering a wide range of topics while focused on his core. He had significant impact in each of them.

He served in the Korean War with the Army, then obtained several degrees. While doing that, he also worked for Boeing and as part of that worked on Project Thor, a KEV concept that continues to evolve (and offers a much needed alternative to nuclear strikes, IMO). He then went on to do more work in the field, including serving as the founding president of the Pepperdine Research Institute.

When I was working commercial space activities at NASA, I was unsurprised to find that Jerry was there ahead of me in terms of sowing seeds with the investment community. Not just for launch services, but in terms of the wide range of research that can (and does) benefit from research in microgravity — everything from casting metals to plant growth.

His work — and Roberta’s — in education is very much under appreciated in my opinion. Together, they have advanced a number of theories and initiatives that could help with the current state of education.

His work in computing was far more than his column. In fact, he used his column to push a number of things that have helped bring about the current state of the field — and lay groundwork for the future.

The small part I played in the Cold War was an area where Jerry helped provide context by sharing history and his experiences, which pre-dated mine. It shaped some of my thoughts on preparedness — a topic on which we both had considerable interest.

Nor were all the times serious. We laughed, told tales, and generally had a good time even as we discussed and plotted on more serious things.

For all his legend, there was a great deal of thought behind what he said, and even how he said it. We did not always agree; but, when presented with a differing opinion he always listened and there were some interesting bits of discourse between those present. Eye opening and mind opening does not begin to describe it.

If there is a way to influence things from that which awaits, I have little doubt that he, Aleta Jackson, and some others are already deep into discussions and efforts to do just that.

There is so much more I could say, but the fact is he was more than an author. He was an innovator who encouraged innovation and growth in a number of fields. More than that, he encouraged people with a wide range of interests (and beliefs) to think, grow, and do.

Godspeed Jerry. Prayers are said for you and your family, and for all you leave behind. Thank you for all you did for me, and for being you. The world has lost not just a gifted writer, but someone who worked tirelessly to make practical and positive changes to the world.

SDB and Kerry Gilley, Into The Light

Steven Den Beste has moved on into the light. In the early days of the Internet as we now know it, his USS Clueless was a bright beacon of what it could be. I can’t remember how I found him, but I was amazed and delighted to find his work, work that made one think, epitomized rational discourse, reason, and much more that is good in thought and the world. His considered reasoning was refreshing, and even when you disagreed with a point, you were in awe of the way he arrived at it. More than once (many more) when reading you stopped and thought to yourself “Wow. Never looked at it that way before.” If you ever wrote something that got an attaboy from him, you knew you had done well. I still have the USS Clueless and the USS Clueless Essential Library bookmarked on my site, though his health had moved him on to other things. To say he was a giant in the field is a massive understatement. He was an inspiration to me in my early days, and also introduced me to people, sites, and concepts for which I am immensely thankful. The positive impact he had on the Internet and the world may never be fully appreciated.
Tom Hayden has passed.
Kerry Gilley has also passed into the light. Like Steven, health problems had driven him from the stage several years ago. He was not a blogger, but a good man and a good friend in Science Fiction fandom. I can’t remember exactly when and how we met, and it seems like he was always a part of my life in that arena. He had a truly rotten sense of humor (often quite dryer than many suspected) and pun, and for all that we disagreed on some points, it was a subject of fun banter and serious philosophical discussion that drew us together rather than apart. He had a huge heart, and would literally give someone the shirt off his back if they were in need. Sehlat salutes Mr. “Sliding Down The Razorblade of Life” and is much the richer for having known him.
Godspeed Steven and Kerry. Toasts are raised, prayers said, and smiles abound thinking back on that which was.